Schlagwort-Archive: Apple

Speculation is mounting that Jony Ive has checked out at Apple

Last fall, Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was asked what he would do if he weren’t designing for Apple.

„If I wasn’t doing this, I think I would just be drawing or making stuff for friends,“ Ive said during an interview with Charlie Rose. „Maybe it would just be Christmas tree ornaments, I don’t know.“

Last Sunday, the London hotel Claridge’s unveiled its annual Christmas tree installation.

It was designed by Ive.

Ive’s official Apple bio says he’s „responsible for all design at Apple, including the look and feel of Apple hardware, user interface, packaging, major architectural projects such as Apple Campus 2 and Apple’s retail stores, as well as new ideas and future initiatives.“

But people who know the company well are starting to suggest that Ive has been taking more of a backseat role and may not even be deeply involved in product design anymore, which was where he made his biggest mark on the company.

„I’ve heard that he has lately been checked out or not as directly involved with product design, and that he’s been largely focused on architecture,“ Apple watcher John Gruber told Jason Snell, the former editor of Macworld, during a podcast last week. Ive is mostly working on the new retail stores and working closely with head of retail Angela Ahrendts, Snell said he’s heard.

Gruber later clarified on his blog that he did not mean to imply Ive was on his way out, and that Apple sources have told him „every aspect of every new product remains as much under his watchful eye as ever.“

Apple BookKif Leswing/Business Insider

There isn’t a whole lot of evidence one way or the other. But a new glossy book taking a look back at Ive’s best designs is certainly stoking the speculation.

„Criticizing execs is unpopular, but Ive seems stretched thin, burnt out, and bored,“ Apple blogger Marco Arment tweeted. „I’d love to see some fresh design leadership at Apple.“

The history

ive treeRob Price/Business Insider

During Apple’s meteoric rise from 2000 to 2011, Ive was at Steve Jobs‘ side.

He ran Apple’s industrial design department, which was empowered to imagine products like the iPhone. Ive often gave concepts to Apple’s engineering department, telling them to make the product design possible, which is counter to how industrial design works at other high-tech firms.

Ive considered himself Jobs‘ closest friend, and he is still seen as a critical person for the company. His 20-person team designed every single one of Apple’s iconic products in the past 15 years, from the iPod to the iPhone.

If Ive were to retire officially, it could spook investors.

After Jobs‘ death, it looked as if Ive had received even more responsibility at Apple. He expanded his role from strictly physical industrial design to digital user interface as well.

Then, in the summer of 2015, Ive received a promotion to chief design officer. The news was announced in a British newspaper on a bank holiday Monday.

CEO Tim Cook explained the move in a memo to employees, which was leaked and published on 9to5Mac:

„As Chief Design Officer, Jony will remain responsible for all of our design, focusing entirely on current design projects, new ideas and future initiatives. On July 1, he will hand off his day-to-day managerial responsibilities of ID and UI to Richard Howarth, our new vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye, our new vice president of User Interface Design.“

When Ive left, Harper Alexander, his handpicked lab manager and right-hand man, left the group, too — he now does corporate recruiting for Apple.

Many analysts, such as Above Avalon’s Neil Cybart, still believe that Ive is one of the most important people at the company. „With Jony Ive positioned as overseer of Apple design, his influence on Apple’s product direction cannot be overstated,“ he wrote earlier this month.

But earlier this spring, Apple’s iPhone SE launched without a product explanation from Ive, as most previous Apple products had received. And he kept a low profile at the launch event — only one reporter who attended told us he saw Ive, while many others said they thought he wasn’t there.

Ive contributed voice-overs to the launches of the iPhone 7 and MacBook Pro this fall. But as many have observed, he did more press, including two interviews, for his new book than he did for Apple’s latest products.

Ive is certainly keeping a much lower profile than he did before his promotion.

Impossible to tell

IVE SECSEC

Despite Ive’s clear importance to the company and his role in Apple lore, the company does not list Ive as one of its six most highly compensated executives in Securities and Exchange Commission documents.

(Those execs are CEO Tim Cook, CFO Luca Maestri, Ahrendts, Online Services SVP Eddy Cue, Hardware SVP Dan Riccio, and General Counsel Bruce Sewell.)

The last time Ive was listed on a SEC Form 4, which is required whenever an „insider“ acquires or disposes of stock, was in 2009. It said he owned 28,127 shares of Apple stock at the time. There’s been a 7-1 split since then.

Simply put, nobody outside Apple knows how much Ive makes, even though we know what the rest of Apple’s executive team makes.

Shareholders do not know what Ive makes. It could be massive, or he could already be collecting a nominal salary because he’s effectively retired. It’s impossible to tell.

Making it harder for investors to gain clarity on the situation, Ive has traditionally run a leak-free, extremely secretive ship. Even Snell and Gruber, with their inside Apple sources, realize there is only so much an Apple employee would know, given that Ive’s team has traditionally worked apart from the company, especially the software engineering department.

Former Apple exec Scott Forstall, who developed iOS, could not get into Ive’s lab with his senior vice president ID card, according to a biography of Ive.

The team was small, at fewer than 20 members, although it has grown recently and now includes user interface as well. Few people ever leave the group, although Daniel Coster, a longtime member, was wooed by GoPro.

These team members sit together at lunch and are fiercely loyal to one another. If anyone knows if Ive is no longer showing up to the shop, it’s them, and they’re not talking — to other Apple employees or the press.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The future?

Apple Campus 2Apple Campus 2.City of Cupertino

Of course, Ive could just be head down, working on Apple’s next big thing — the successor to the iPhone that will ensure the company remains the world’s most admired for years to come.

Snell suggests that the Apple Car, now seemingly on the back burner, was an Ive passion project. That’s certainly plausible. One of the reported goals for the Apple Car project was to retain top talent who might be bored working on incremental iPhone improvements.

But it’s much harder to see Ive driving the development behind a pair of smart glasses, or augmented reality, which Apple is currently working on.

Ive told The New Yorker that the face „was the wrong place“ for technology, in a long profile written in the fall of 2014, just before Apple unveiled the Apple Watch. Ive sounded tired:

„He was a few days from starting a three-week vacation, the longest of his career. The past year had been ‚the most difficult‘ he’d experienced since joining Apple, he said later that day, explaining that the weariness I’d sometimes seen wasn’t typical. Since our previous meeting, he’d had pneumonia. ‚I just burnt myself into not being very well,‘ he said.“

A quote from Jobs‘ widow in the same profile hinted at a role change as well:

„He had discouraged the thought that Newson’s appointment portended his own eventual departure, although when I spoke to Powell Jobs she wondered if ‚there might be a way where there’s a slightly different structure that’s a little more sustainable and sustaining.‘ Comparing the careers of her husband and Ive, she noted that ‚very few people ever get to do such things,‘ but added, ‚I do think there’s a toll.'“

Ive’s studio is currently located on the ground floor at 2 Infinite Loop, with a direct passageway to 1 Infinite Loop, where Cook and the rest of his executive team members meet weekly.

When Apple moves into its new „Spaceship“ Campus 2, the industrial design group will get the best location on the ring.

They’ll be on the fourth floor, in a new 30,000-square-foot studio. They will have a view of much of Apple’s campus. It’s a symbol of how important the industrial design group led by Ive has been to Apple.

When the team moves in, will Ive be there, looking at the campus he designed and helped build with them? Or will he be off in England designing retail stores, the Apple Car, or Christmas ornaments for friends?

http://www.businessinsider.de/jony-ive-in-back-seat-at-apple-2016-11

Samsung Plans To Give Galaxy S8 An AI Digital Assistant

All the cool companies have them: digital assistants. Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, and Google  has the cleverly named Google Assistant. Now, Samsung plans to bring its own iteration of a virtual assistant in the Galaxy S8 next spring, according to a new report from Reuters.

The assistant will be based on work by Viv Labs, a San Jose-based AI company that Samsung acquired this October (the move immediately fueled speculation that Samsung was moving into the AI space). The founders of Viv Labs already have a strong track record in the field as the creators of Siri, which Apple bought in 2010.

Samsung appears to be tapping into Viv’s existing strengths rather than aiming to revamp the platform. One of Viv’s hallmarks is that it is designed to be a one-stop-shop that works seamlessly with third-party services. “Developers can attach and upload services to our agent,” Samsung Executive Vice President Rhee In-jong said during a briefing, according to Reuters. “Even if Samsung doesn’t do anything on its own, the more services that get attached the smarter this agent will get, learn more new services and provide them to end-users with ease.”

If the digital assistant is a hit, it could help Samsung make up for its financial losses over the Galaxy Note 7 recall, which is projected to cost the company at least $5.4 billion. It could also rebuild consumer confidence after the Note 7 debacle and, more recently, a recall of a Samsung top-loading washing machine due to “impact injuries.”

But the company is entering a crowded market. Apple paved the way with Siri, though its early lead is shrinking after the launch of Google’s Assistant, which can tap into Google’s well-established knowledge graph and search capabilities. And there’s always Amazon Alexa, which already has a home in the smart-home devices the Echo, Dot and Tap.

„Every door can be unlocked.“  Ellen Fondiler

http://www.forbes.com/sites/shelbycarpenter/2016/11/06/samsung-plan-galaxy-s8-ai-digital-assistant

Choosing the iPhone 7 is tougher than in the past

It’s a great phone, but where’s my headphone jack?

At a glance, you’d be hard-pressed to tell Apple’s new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, which go on sale Friday, from their 2015 and 2014 counterparts. They look almost identical, and are the same sizes. But once you get your hands on them, the differences are clear: better cameras, longer battery life, water resistance, doubled memory at essentially the same prices, and more.

Oh, and upon closer inspection, you’ll notice something else: the disappearance of the age-old, standard, perfectly fine audio jack that fits every earbud and headphone you own. Yeah, I know. I’m not crazy about that change either.

I’ve been using both the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus for nearly a week, equipped with the much-improved iOS 10 operating system (which will be available for older models as well starting today). And I’m impressed. But I’m also annoyed. And impatient. All at the same time. Let me explain.

The impressive

The most important thing about the 2016 iteration of the iPhone is that, overall, it takes a truly excellent smartphone and makes it significantly better in a host of ways, even without overhauling the exterior design, and despite the removal of the standard audio jack.

From Apple’s usual long list, I’ve picked five big improvements that impressed me most.

First, Apple is doubling the memory at every price point on both models, starting with 32GB at the low end ($649 for the smaller iPhone 7) and going all the way to 256GB ($969 on the costlier iPhone 7 Plus). The increase in base memory is long overdue, but it’s great to see higher memory at essentially the same prices on costlier models (the larger Plus costs $20 more this year than last).

Then, there’s battery life. Apple claims it’s adding two hours of battery life between charges to the smaller model, and one hour to the bigger one. This is mainly because of a bigger battery plus a clever new processor, which uses low-power cores for routine phone functions and only kicks in high-power cores when needed.

Battery life on phones is notoriously hard to test, because it depends so heavily on what you’re doing, and on how hard the phone has to work to find a strong cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Still, in my short test period, on both coasts, the new iPhones had great battery life.

The bigger Plus easily turned in 13–15 hour days, often with power left in the tank, doing a wide variety of tasks. For instance, my test iPhone 7 Plus was at just a few minutes shy of 14 hours with 14 percent left, when I got to my DC-area home after flying from San Francisco and using the phone heavily on cellular networks, and hotel, airport, and airplane Wi-Fi. That’s a scenario I usually find to be a battery-killer, unless I charge. The smaller model was typically in the 12–14 hour range, even after hours of streaming video and music.

Then there’s water resistance — the ability to withstand being submerged in a toilet, sink, or puddle for long enough to fish it out and still find it fully functioning. (Samsung phones have been water resistant for a while.) I left an iPhone 7 submerged in a large mixing bowl of water for about 20 minutes (it can go deeper and longer, Apple says — 1 meter for 30 minutes). It was fine when I fished it out and dried it off. No rice needed. The only effects were somewhat gravelly sound quality for about 5 minutes, and an admonition not to charge it for five hours thereafter.

 James Bareham

Next, cameras. In my opinion, as a determined amateur who has never bought expensive cameras, the iPhone already had the best camera I owned. But Apple has redesigned it, with a larger, f/1.8 aperture that pulls in more light, a better flash, and the ability to capture a wider range of colors. Yet that’s just the start. On the smaller iPhone, the camera now has optical image stabilization, which limits shaky shots — a feature available only on the larger model last year.

And that costlier iPhone Plus now has two cameras, one a wide-angle version and one a telephoto version. Through software, they act as one single camera with easy, elegant controls. With just the tap of a button labeled „2X,“ I was able to get vivid, detailed shots at true 2x optical zoom, not the grainy digital zoom smartphone users have been wise to avoid forever. For me, and I suspect many other average folks, real zooming is a huge deal, bigger than some of the more esoteric effects photo hobbyists might value. In fact, this beautiful zooming dual camera is the first feature I’ve seen that might lure me to a large-screen phone.

And then there’s the operating system. This isn’t a review of iOS 10, which is a separate product from the iPhone 7. But, since it comes with it out of the box, the two are wedded. And I found almost every aspect of it to be faster and better. Lock screen notifications and widgets, and the Control Center are more logically organized and easier to use. Messaging, Maps, Music, News, and other features are improved. And then there are small things: for instance, to my surprise, the phone even automatically saved a map and directions of where I’d parked my car.

The phone is also faster, its screen is brighter, and it has stereo speakers. But I wasn’t wowed by these things in my testing. You might be.

Apple has also replaced the home button with a non-mechanical, non-moving button that uses a vibration „engine“ to simulate the feel of pressing a button. Three people I know said it felt like the whole bottom of the phone, not just the button, was being pushed. But it didn’t bother me, and it’s one less mechanical component to break.

The annoying

What did bother me was the aforementioned removal of the headphone jack. Yes, Apple has a long history of removing (and also pioneering) standard components, going back to the removal of the floppy disk from the first iMac in 1998.

I have often complained that Apple was acting too soon, but I always agreed that the move made sense at some point, because the displaced component (the floppy, the optical drive, the Ethernet jack) were being used less and less and there was something better (optical drives, the cloud, Wi-Fi) to replace them.

In this case, I see zero evidence that the 3.5mm audio jack is being used less or has hit a wall. It’s happily transmitting music, podcasts, and phone calls to many millions of people from many millions of devices as you read this sentence. Apple says it needed replacing to make more room for bigger batteries and other components.

I also don’t see that Apple has come up with a better replacement. The company is clearly trying to move the whole industry toward wireless audio, which has never been great due to patchy Bluetooth connectivity, poor fidelity — especially for music — and limited battery life.

 James Bareham

As a transition, the iPhone 7 includes Apple’s familiar white earbuds — and a free adapter — only with a Lightning connector at the end instead of the standard audio plug. It sounds the same. But now you can no longer charge your phone while making long phone calls or listening to music without a bulky adapter or dock. I label that worse, not better.

Apple says very few people do charge and listen at the same time. I respectfully disagree.

Next month, Apple will ship its take on wireless Bluetooth earbuds — called AirPods — which it hopes will solve some of the old wireless headphone woes and push the transition. Using a custom chip called the W1, the sophisticated AirPods supposedly make Bluetooth connections steadier and Bluetooth audio better. In my tests of preproduction AirPods, they delivered on these promises. And I could charge the phone while listening.

But the $159 AirPods only give you five hours of music listening time and two hours of talk time between charges, though they come in a handy little white case that provides 24 hours of additional juice. Apple notes that it’s proud of those numbers and that a 15-minute charge in the case gets you another 60 percent of rated battery life. It adds that if you use only one AirPod for phone calls, and keep swapping it out for a fresh one, you could talk on and on. Still, to me, they impose a limitation that standard, wired earbuds don’t have.

(Note: during my testing one of the AirPods had trouble holding a charge, so Apple swapped it out. It didn’t affect my tests of connecting and listening, and, since the product isn’t due out until late October, I can’t assume production units would have that problem.)

Not only that, but you have to charge the case periodically. Oh, and they kind of look like white plastic earrings. So, you should hope that’s your style, if you’re planning to buy them.

I’m sure the wireless earbud and headphone revolution is upon us now, and that, in a few years, the battery life will double or triple. For now, though, this Apple change of a standard component adds a hassle to your phone use, whether you are wired or wireless.

It’s an annoyance and a negative.

The impatient

I am impatient for Apple to do a top-to-bottom redesign of the iPhone, and the iPhone 7 isn’t it. Apple concedes this and strongly suggests a dramatic redesign won’t appear until next year, the iPhone’s 10th anniversary.

Let me stress: I am not for a redesign just for the hell of it. There are good reasons to change the look and feel of the iPhone, some of them evident in Samsung models. For instance, Samsung and others manage to fit a large screen like the one on the iPhone Plus into a smaller body and still squeeze in a big battery. But the iPhones still have big footprints for their screen sizes and big top and bottom bezels.

Another example: the iPhones still lack wireless or inductive charging. Adding that might require a redesign.

 James Bareham

Bottom line

The iPhone remains an outstanding smartphone, and this latest model makes it even better in many ways. And, unlike rival Samsung, Apple isn’t beset with the very serious problem of exploding batteries. But the whole audio jack thing makes choosing the iPhone 7 more difficult than it might have been.

You won’t go wrong buying the iPhone 7 if you can tolerate the earbud issue, especially if you’re on an installment plan like Apple’s that just gets you a new iPhone every year. You could get the iPhone 7 and then the big redesign next year, as long as you keep paying the monthly fee.

But, despite the undisputed improvements, this new iPhone just isn’t as compelling an upgrade as many of its predecessors. Some might want to wait a year for the next really big thing — and maybe a better audio solution to boot.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/13/12895574/walt-mossberg-iphone-7-plus-review

What Happens When Apple Designs A Product That Doesn’t Solve A Problem

Apple has repositioned the Apple Watch as „the ultimate device for a healthy life“—and left Gucci and productivity nerds in the dust.

[All Images: via Apple]

When the Apple Watch debuted in 2015, Apple told us it would be fashionable. It would usher in a new platform for high-tech fads covered in Vogue. It was going to save us time—one second at a time. It was going to do all sorts of things we couldn’t even imagine yet, like sharing your heartbeat, or scribbling a shape to a loved one.

But at this week’s Apple event, as the company introduced the Apple Watch 2, those promises seemed long forgotten. Instead, in a hero video, a mountain biker flew through the air, stuck the landing, and seemed to answer a call coming through from his mom; another flew up a steep climb before texting he was on his way. A presentation from Nike followed, encouraging users to run on Sundays, because supposedly, people who exercise on Sundays are more active overall. Then Tim Cook subtly dropped what sounded like a new tagline: „It’s the ultimate device for a healthy life.“

It was a remarkable pivot, and it hints at the watch’s fundamental shortcoming: It’s a product without an apparent use case. Whereas the iPhone put miniature computers into our hands, and the MacBook fulfilled the promise of truly portable personal computing, the watch is a solution in search of a problem. Apple does not disclose sales figures, but a recent report from the research firm IDC claims Apple Watch sales dipped almost 57% in the first quarter of 2016—this despite that sales at competitors such as Fitbit are up.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise, then, that Apple has backed into the de facto selling point of wearables, a new, old narrative: The watch will make you swole.

The Fashion Pitch

It made sense why Apple chased fashion. The field was crowded with fitness bands, and Apple no doubt wanted the watch to be something more desirable. Apple recruited Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts, and paid her $70 million to build Apple into a bona fide retail powerhouse—along with an all-star fashion team including Paul Deneve, Mark Newson, Catherine Monier, and Marcela Aguilar. Apple’s fashion push was about more than the watch, of course—it was about turning Apple into a lifestyle brand. But the watch was a linchpin.

When the watch debuted publicly at Paris Fashion Week, and Karl Lagerfeld was photographed trying one on, it seemed destined for immortality. The company recruited big-name designers, like Hermes, to create bands as easily as they do developers to make apps. And what were assuredly highly coordinated sponsorship campaigns, stars like Beyoncé wore them on Instagram. They even made a version in gold—for five figures—and forced appointments to try it on with white glove service. That watch has since been discontinued.

The problem with positioning the watch around fashion? At best, the Apple Watch can’t be fashionable for very long because fashion is fleeting. At worst, the Apple Watch just wasn’t that fashionable to begin with. Apple may have sold a billion iPhones, but iPhones don’t live all day, every day, on your wrist.

The Productivity Pitch

So fashion was a reach. The Apple Watch just needed a killer app, something that made it indispensable to a modern connected worker. The Apple Watch’s value at launch became „glances,“ which was supposed to help make you a more productive person. That meant checking your wrist for the time, or a text message, as if this was a breakthrough the world had never imagined before.

Of course, it doesn’t take much longer to pull a phone from your pocket than to check your wrist, and it’s certainly no less rude to your lunch mate. That promise of seconds saved, on a $350 device, just didn’t mean too much to a nation where most U.S. citizens have less than $1,000 in their bank account.

The Fitness Pitch

And so we’re back to this week, at Apple’s iPhone 7 event, where they showed off the Apple Watch 2, a device that’s almost entirely unchanged, except for a new way of marketing it. Did you see the watch controlling smart lights? Or appearing on a catwalk? Or giving someone directions to a meeting?

No. But there were burpees and golf swings! Aside from introducing a new, white ceramic version—a nod to current design trends—and quickly mentioning some new bands from Hermes, Apple ignored all this fashion and productivity stuff. But Apple was sure to show a splashy home-brew dunking machine, a metal arm that stress-drenched Apple Watches in a tank like they were strapped to an angry Michael Phelps swimming the 200-meter fly. Apple was sure to give Nike several minutes to introduce its custom Nike Plus branded version. „You can wear it when swimming, surfing, or just doing that occasional cannonball,“ Apple COO Jeff Williams said. The Cannonball: The Apple Watch’s first killer app.

And in case you think I’m editing the presentation for argument’s sake, realize, no moment was free from fitness. Heck, even when the software developer Niantic introduced Pokémon Go Apple Watch support, the script rounded about to tease the 4.6 billion kilometers players had taken since the game launched. Even this moment of unbridled, monster-catching recreation had to become quantified fitness on Apple’s stage.

Who Cares If The Apple Watch Is A Fitness Thingie?

So by now you’re probably thinking, „Okay, fine, Apple backtracked a bit, but now it knows what the Apple Watch is for. It reverse-engineered its purpose. Isn’t that enough?“

There’s one problem with Apple backing into this position selling a wearable fitness tracker: People abandon their fitness trackers. Multiple studies have found that after a few months, many people stop caring about all their pedometer graphs and sleep cycles. (Anyone who has worn a Fitbit knows why. Sooner or later, all of this life quantification isn’t really all that meaningful unless you’re literally in training.) Even Nike knew to abandon ship after more or less creating the category with the FuelBand. It’s a lot easier, and lower risk, to leave the hardware to Apple and just brand it.

And let’s be honest about the Apple Watch as a fitness device: It’s fine. Call it great if you want. But it’s not the 10-generational-leap better than all of its competitors, like the iPhone was when it changed the entire smartphone market. It’s just the shiniest of fitness bands in a largely commoditized fitness band market.

But perhaps the company has its eye on the long game. Aside from being yet another fitness tracker, the Apple Watch is also also a network-connected health-focused gadget that interfaces with the most popular smartphone in the world, on the wrists of millions of test subjects in the sort of worldwide, cross-ethnographic field study that that health industry could never match. And while the U.S. smartphone market makes a healthy $400 billion in revenue, the U.S. health care market pulls in $1.668 trillion.

If the Apple Watch is ready and waiting—with 5 or 10 years of proven reliability—whenever our doctors and insurers inevitably tag us like cattle to track our daily activity? Then it’s the one purpose for the Apple Watch that’s worth backing into.

https://www.fastcodesign.com/3063525/what-happens-when-apple-designs-a-product-that-doesnt-solve-a-problem

Facebook Is Not a Technology Company

At the close of trading this Monday, the top five global companies by market capitalization were all U.S. tech companies: Apple, Alphabet (formerly Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

Bloomberg, which reported on the apparent milestone, insisted that this “tech sweep” is unprecedented, even during the dot-com boom. Back in 2011, for example, Exxon and Shell held two of the top spots, and Apple was the only tech company in the top five. In 2006, Microsoft held the only slot—the others were in energy, banking, and manufacture. But things have changed. “Your new tech overlords,” Bloomberg christened the five.

But what makes a company a technology company, anyway? In their discussion of overlords, Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide and Rani Molla explain that “Non-tech titans like Exxon and GE have slipped a bit” in top valuations. Think about that claim for a minute, and reflect on its absurdity: Exxon uses enormous machinery to extract the remains of living creatures from geological antiquity from deep beneath the earth. Then it uses other enormous machinery to refine and distribute that material globally. For its part, GE makes almost everything—from light bulbs to medical imaging devices to wind turbines to locomotives to jet engines.

Isn’t it strange to call Facebook, a company that makes websites and mobile apps a “technology” company, but to deny that moniker to firms that make diesel trains, oil-drilling platforms, and airplane engines?

Part of the problem has to do with the private language of finance. Markets segment companies by industry, and analysts track specific sectors and subsectors. Exxon is an energy industry stock, while GE straddles energy, transportation, public utility, healthcare, and finance. The “technology” in the technology sector is really synecdoche for “computer technology.” Companies in that sector deal in software, semiconductors, hardware manufacturing, peripherals, data processing services, digital advertising, and so forth.

“Technology” has become so overused … that the term has lost all meaning.

For the NASDAQ exchange, where most so-called technology companies are traded, those industries are based on the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB), a classification system developed by the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group. The ICB breaks the market down into 10 industries, each of which is broken down further into supersectors, sectors, and subsectors. The ICB technology industry counts “Internet” as a subsector of “Software & Computer Services,” for example. Companies are assigned to sectors and subsectors based on the (largest) source of their revenue (thus, GE is considered an energy company).

A company like Microsoft fits squarely into Technology, Software & Computer Services, because that’s where the majority of its revenue derives. Likewise, Apple is a traditional ICB “technology” company, in the sense that it makes most of its money from selling computer hardware. But the other companies in Bloomberg’s Monday top five are technology companies in a mostly vestigial way.

Almost all of Google’s and Facebook’s revenue, for example, comes from advertising; by that measure, there’s an argument that those firms are really Media industry companies, with a focus on Broadcasting and Entertainment. Of course, Alphabet is a lot like GE, or at least it aspires to be, with its investments in automotive (Self-Driving Car Project), health care (Calico), consumer goods (Nest), utilities (Fiber). But the vast majority of its revenue comes from Google’s ad business.

Amazon generates a lot of revenue from its Amazon Web Services (AWS) business—perhaps as much as $10 billion this year. It also derives revenue from manufacturing and selling computer hardware, like the Fire and Kindle. But thevast majority of Amazon’s revenue comes from international sales of consumer goods. Amazon is sort of a tech company, but really it’s a retailer.

A day later, at the close of the markets Tuesday, August 2, the tech sweep was already history. Exxon Mobil had pushed Facebook out of position five, topping the, uh, online broadcast media company’s $352 billion market cap by $8 billion, or 2 percent. Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway also closed Tuesday at $354 billion in total value. Among Berkshire Hathaway’s top revenue drivers are insurance, manufacturing, and the obscure but ubiquitous McClane Company, which provides supply-chain management and logistics services for the grocery industry. It brought in $28 billion in revenue last year, or about $10 billion more than Facebook. Johnson & Johnson, which sells consumer and industrial health products from Actifed to Zyrtec, wasn’t far behind, with a $345 billion market capitalization at the close of business Tuesday.

Every industry uses computers, software, and internet services. If that’s what “technology” means, then every company is in the technology business—a useless distinction. But it’s more likely that “technology” has become so overused, and so carelessly associated with Silicon Valley-style computer software and hardware startups, that the term has lost all meaning. Perhaps finance has exacerbated the problem by insisting on the generic industrial term “technology” as a synonym for computing.

There are companies that are firmly planted in the computing sector. Microsoft and Apple are two. Intel is another—it makes computer parts for other computer makers. But it’s also time to recognize that some companies—Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook among them—aren’t primarily in the computing business anyway. And that’s no slight, either. The most interesting thing about companies like Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook is that they are not (computing) technology companies. Instead, they are using computing infrastructure to build new—and enormous—businesses in other sectors. If anything, that’s a fair take on what “technology” might mean as a generic term: manipulating one set of basic materials to realize goals that exceed those materials.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/08/facebook-is-not-a-technology-company/494183

Battle of the assistants

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Image: patrick lux/Getty Images

Despite what science-fiction wisdom says, talking to your computer is not normal. Sitting in the middle of a modern, open floor-plan office and saying „Hello, Computer,“ will garner some head-turns and a few scowls.

No matter. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are convinced we want to talk to everything, including our desktop and laptop computers. Side-eye looks be damned.

Which brings us to today. Almost a year since Microsoft brought Cortana to Windows 10, Apple is following suit with Siri for the newly rechristened macOS.

Windows 10 with Cortana is, obviously, a shipping product, while macOS with Siri integration is in early beta. Even so, I can’t look at Siri’s first desktop jaunt in a vacuum, so when Apple supplied me with a MacBook running the beta of macOS Sierra (due to come to consumers in the fall), I compared the two desktop-based voice assistants. As you might surmise, they’re quite similar, but they have significant and strategic differences.

Where did they come from?

Siri arrives on the desktop as the oldest of the growing class of digital assistants, appearing first on the iPhone 4S in 2011. It’s long been rumored that it would eventually come to the Mac, so no one was surprised when Apple announced exactly that earlier this month at its Worldwide Developers Conference.

Cortana (which was named for the synthetic intelligence in Microsoft’s popular Halo game series), arrived with Windows 10 in 2015, a year after the digital assistant’s formal introduction on Windows Phone at the 2014 Microsoft Build conference.


Siri macOS

Siri lives in two spots on the desktop and asks you to let the system know your location.

Image: Apple

Like Cortana, Siri has a permanent place on the macOS desktop. Actually, it has two. A tiny icon in the upper right corner and then another in the macOS dock. Both launch the familiar Siri „waiting to help you“ wave.

On Windows, Cortana sits next to the Start Button. it has a circular halo icon and, next to that, the ever-present „Ask me anything.“


cortana

A click on the Cortana logo opens this Cortana window.

Image: microsoft

It’s at this point that the two assistants diverge. Cortana is a voice assistant, but, by default, it’s a text-driven one. Most people who use it will type something into the Cortana box. If you want to speak to Cortana — as I did many times for this article — you have to click the little microphone icon icon on the right side of the Cortana box.

While Cortana combines universal search with the digital assistant, Apple’s Siri drawn a line between the two.

Importantly, you can put Cortana in an always-listening mode, so it (she?) will wake when you say „Hey Cortana.“ Even though you can also wake the mobile Siri with „Hey Siri,“ macOS offers no such always-listening feature. For the purposes of this comparison, I left „Hey Cortana“ off.

Siri is a voice assistant. It has no text box. A click on either Siri icon opens the same black box in the upper right-hand side of the macOS desktop (it actually slides in from offscreen — a nice touch). As soon as you hit that button, Siri is listening, waiting for you to ask a question.

Sitting right next to Siri is Spotlight, which last year got a significant update. It’s a universal search that can pore over you Mac, the Web, iTunes, the App Store, maps.

So while Microsoft’s Cortana combines universal search with the digital assistant, Apple’s drawn a line between the two — sort of. Spotlight can perform many of the same searches as Siri. However, if you type a question into Spotlight, it may launch Siri. A trigger word appears to be „What’s.“

I really don’t know why Apple chose to keep Spotlight and Siri separate, but they may reconsider in future versions of macOS.

Battle of the assistants

It’s early days for Siri on the desktop, but I’m already impressed with its performance and intelligence — especially as it compares to Microsoft’s Cortana.

To test the two voice assistants, I first closed my office door. I wanted to speak in a normal voice and didn’t want to attract any annoyed stares.

Both Siri on macOS and Cortana start by asking you to open up your privacy settings a bit. They simply do their jobs better if they know where you are. So I followed Siri’s instructions and turned on location services on the macOS.


Here’s something else Siri on macOS and Cortana have in common: Both can tap into your system to, for example, find files and make system-level adjustments, but they’re both pretty inconsistent. Siri on macOS, obviously, is still a work in progress, so take these criticisms with a grain of salt. Even so, I suspect that there will, at least for some time, be limits to what Siri can do even after the forma macOS launch, especially as long as Spotlight survives.

When I asked Siri to „increase my screen brightness,“ it opened a System Preferences: Brightness slider box within Siri and told me „I made the screen a little brighter.“

Impressive.

When I asked Cortana the same question, it opened a Bing search result inside the Cortana box, which told me how to adjust screen brightness, but didn’t do it for me.

On the other hand, when I told Cortana to turn off my Wi-Fi, it turned it off, it returned a message of „Wi-Fi is now off“ and showed the setting to confirm.


Cortana and Siri Wi-Fi

On the left is how Cortana handles voice commands for turning on and off Wi-Fi. On the right is how Siri does it. When you turn off Wi-Fi (networking), you basically disable Siri.

Image: APPLE/MICROSOFT/COMPOSITE/MASHABLE

Siri can turn off Wi-Fi, too, but doing so also renders Siri for macOS useless. Unlike Cortana, it needs an Internet connection to work, which means once Siri on macOS has turned it off, you can’t use it to turn Wi-Fi back on. Even if you turn off network connectivity, Cortana will still be able to search your system.

Siri and Cortana excel at natural-language queries (asking questions in sentences), but Siri comes across as the smarter system.

It’s easy to check your schedule through both systems — you just need to ask one of them about your next appointment. However, Siri goes a big step further.


Siri on macOS

Changing you schedule should be this easy everywhere.

Image: apple

When I asked it about my next appointment, it showed me one for Thursday at 11:00 a.m. I then clicked the microphone icon below the calendar result and asked Siri, „Can you move that to 11:10.“ Siri responded, „Okay, I’ll make that change to your event. Shall I reschedule it?“ It then offered the option of confirming the change or cancelling it with my voice. Siri on macOS actually maintains the context between queries — that feels more like the future.

When I asked Cortana to make a similar change, it sent me to a Bing search result. (By the way, both voice assistants use Bing and neither will let you change it to Google.)

The level of conversational prowess in Siri could be a real game-changer and certainly puts Microsoft on notice.


macOS Siri

These are questions I can’t just ask Cortana.

Image: apple/composite/, mashable

Cortana and Siri on macOS both boast system access, but Siri does a better job of keeping track of system specs. I can ask about the speed of my system and how much iCloud storage I have left in Siri. Cortana, unfortunately, has no clue about my OneDrive storage and when I asked „How fast is my PC?“ I only got a Bing search result.

Where’s my stuff and who are you

Siri and Cortana each do a good job of finding system files that contain a keyword. For both, I asked, „Find me files with [keyword],“ and they both quickly showed me local, relevant results. Siri, however, excels at making results persistent. You can pin whatever you find to the notification center.


Cortana and Siri on macOS

On the left you can see that Cortana does a good job with image search, but won’t let me drag and drop from the window. On the right, Siri on macOS found me puppy pics and let me drag and drop one into an email that I plan to send to you.

Image: apple/microsoft/composite/mashable

Similarly, both voice assistants do a good job of finding images, but only Siri on macOS lets me drag and drop one of the image results into a document or email. When I tried to do the same thing with a Cortana result, it only dragged and dropped the HTML for the original query.

Siri did struggle with contacts. I tried initiating a text and got stuck in a sort of infinite loop — it just kept going back to asking me which of my duplicate contacts I wanted to text. This felt like a pre-release bug.

No winners yet

Since Apple is still working Siri for macOS, it’s way too soon to crown a voice-assistant champion. Even so, Siri on mac OS is already faster (Cortana’s voice recognition seems plodding by comparison) and it’s already outstripping Cortana on the intelligence front. On the other hand, Cortana truly shines when you can type into it, a feat impossible in Siri for macOS, unless you start in Spotlight and use one of the magic words to auto-launch Siri.

Microsoft, of course, has its own big Cortana update in the wings as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update due later this summer. It will increase Cortana’s intelligence and utility (order plane tickets, shop), but based on what I’ve seen in Siri for macOS, it may only help Cortana achieve parity on some features, while still leaving it trailing in others.

mashable.com/2016/06/22/siri-macos-vs-cortana

Apple confirms iOS kernel code left unencrypted intentionally

When Apple released a preview version of iOS 10 at its annual developers conference last week, the company slipped in a surprise for security researchers — it left the core of its operating system, the kernel, unencrypted.

“The kernel cache doesn’t contain any user info, and by unencrypting it we’re able to optimize the operating system’s performance without compromising security,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Apple has kept the inner workings of the kernel obfuscated by encryption in previous versions of iOS, leaving developers and researchers in the dark. The kernel manages security and limits the ways applications on an iPhone or iPad can access the hardware of the device, making it a crucial part of the operating system.

Although encryption is often thought to be synonymous with security, the lack of encryption in this case doesn’t mean that devices running iOS 10 are less secure. It just means that that researchers and developers can poke around in the kernel’s code for the first time, and any security flaws will come to light more quickly. If flaws are revealed, they can be quickly patched.

Leaving the kernel unencrypted is a rare move of transparency for Apple. The company is so notoriously secretive about its products that some security experts speculated in the MIT Technology Review that the lack of encryption in the kernel was accidental. But such a mistake would be so shocking as to be practically unbelievable, researchers said. “This would have been an incredibly glaring oversight, like forgetting to put doors on an elevator,” iOS security expert Jonathan Zdziarski told the MIT Technology Review.

Apple has begun to shift towards greater transparency, particularly on security issues, in the wake of its battle with the FBI over unlocking an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter. When the FBI attempted to compel Apple to unlock the phone, CEO Tim Cook penned a rare open letter to Apple’s customers, explaining his decision to resist. “We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government,” Cook wrote. (The FBI eventually dropped its request after paying a third party to break into the device.)

Opening up the kernel’s code for inspection could weaken the market for security flaws like the one the FBI is presumed to have used to get into the San Bernardino iPhone. If flaws are revealed quickly and widely, it will reduce the prices law enforcement and black markets will pay for them — and it could mean quicker fixes for Apple’s customers.

Apple confirms iOS kernel code left unencrypted intentionally